University of Oklahoma officials were seeking a $25 million donation from billionaire oilman Harold Hamm last year, records show, at a time when scientists at the school were formulating the state’s position on oil drilling and earthquakes.
They came up with a position that squared with Hamm’s, saying most of the hundreds of earthquakes rattling the state are natural and not caused by the oil industry.
But they didn’t get the $25 million to build “The Continental Resources Center for Energy Research and Technology.”
And since then, the university’s Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) has reversed that position. It now says that most of the quakes are “very likely” triggered by oil and gas activities….
Hey, cash is king. Have Harold Hamm send me $250 and I’ll rub honey butter over his body and say earthquakes are caused by Barack Obama, gay marriage and solar energy. I have no shame. Then again, I’m a poor blogger who spends his days doing laundry in his mom’s basement. I’m easy to pay off. OU, on the other hand, is a public university with a $1.5-billion endowment. Like they’re really going to compromise their integrity and academic freedom for $25-million in chump change…
A Jan. 22, 2014, email to university fundraising chief Tripp Hall referenced Hall’s “upcoming conversation with Dean Grillot and later Harold Hamm regarding a $25 million (+/-) proposal to connect Continental Resources more closely to OU.”
A week before that memo went out, Grillot had called on Holland and OGS Director Randy Keller (both below him in the chain of command) to develop a “position statement” on whether earthquakes were being caused by drilling.
“I think it would be appropriate for the OGS to have a position statement regarding Oklahoma earthquake activity, etc.,” Grillot wrote. “I have prepared a draft document (attached) for you to edit as you see fit.”
In that first draft, Grillot wrote, “Overall, the majority, but not all, of the recent earthquakes appear to be the result of natural stresses.”
The statement went through at least seven revisions, but Grillot’s original language about “natural stresses” remained in the final version posted Feb. 18.
Holland, the seismologist at OGS and the state’s lead earthquake researcher, told a co-worker he had qualms about Grillot’s language on “natural stresses.”
Holland wrote in his email that the statement was “written primarily by the dean” but that he “tried to make some changes that help me feel a little better about things.”
He said it was “problematic” to point to natural stresses because earthquake activity triggered by wastewater injection “is also the result of natural stresses.”
Okay, so maybe OU will compromise its integrity and academic freedom for $25-million. I guess that’s how the world works. I just ask that OU be fair about it and not play favorites. They should let everyone have the opportunity to use their wallet to shape academia. For example, maybe we could raise $25-million on a Go Fund Me to get the university to say earthquakes are caused by liquor stores being closed on Sunday. I wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Here’s how OU President (and Continental Resources Board Member) David Boren addressed the controversy.